Protecting IP in Print is Easier than You Think

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What is Intellectual Property?

An organization’s intellectual property (IP) ranges from information about a process or the secret sauce for a particular product to patents filed by employees or an organization’s client list. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) defines IP as creations of the mind such as inventions, literary or artistic works, designs, symbols, names and images used in commerce. Financial statements don’t reflect the value of IP, but the loss or theft of IP can cause significant damage. A recent study by Bromium estimates that IP theft generates $500 billion in illegal online market revenue a year.

IP Protection

Every organization needs to understand their IP and where it’s located. Often, IT departments focus on user desktops and IT systems but overlook the exposure of IP at printers, scanners and multi-function devices. It is necessary to classify and label IP as well as take steps to protect IP both digitally and physically. The final piece of the puzzle is educating employees on policies and procedures to facilitate compliance.

IP in Print

Today’s multi-function printers (MFPs) are complex computer systems. When a user prints a sensitive document on an MFP, it can fall into the wrong hands and increase the risk of IP theft by employees, contractors or visitors to the organization. The problem is compounded in locations like shared workspaces, schools and hospitals, where several users share the same MFP for printing. To protect IP in print systems, one needs to understand the potential exposure:

  • MFP disk storage: The hard drive in a printer automatically stores all print jobs. It is easy for someone with malicious intent to remove the hard disk or read the disk and get access to protected IP.
  • Print job grab: Unauthorized users can eyeball or pick up print jobs while the authorized user is walking to the MFP after issuing the print command. IP is susceptible to theft if print jobs are not picked up right away.
  • Jam recovery: MFPs are usually configured to reprint in-transit print jobs after a paper jam. In most cases, the originator of the print job is not the person clearing the jam. The reprinted copy can end up with an unauthorized user, compromising IP.

Print Data Security

IT departments need to evaluate IP exposure in their organization to ensure that IP is protected. To limit exposure, the following strategies can be deployed:

  • Disk erase: Administrators can clean the disk on a regular basis to avoid the risk of disk read or print data leaving the MFP.
  • Secure print: With secure print, the document is not immediately released for print. Instead, printing is held until the authorized user authenticates their identity at the printer using a trusted identity in the form of a smart card, device or biometric. Traditional secure print mechanisms like PIN, passwords or QR code are cumbersome and add friction to the user experience. In a shared workspace environment, these mechanisms cause difficulty in allocating costs for usage because users can easily share or copy credentials. Implementing secure print using a trusted identity solution ensures that users are correctly identified at the MFP with proof of presence and that no unauthorized users can access the printed IP.
  • Disable jam recovery: Administrators can disable jam recovery, so the MFP won’t reprint copy after a jam unless the authorized user resubmits the job and collects it using secure print.

It’s easy to secure IP in print systems if IT administrators can implement disk erase, disable jam recovery, and apply a secure print solution that combines security and convenience, protects IP, and reduces waste.

Learn more about secure print.